Think about how many of your daily activities result from the work of engineers: the roads and bridges we drive on, the smartphones we rely on and the machines that create essential products like toothpaste or hockey pucks (those are essential, right?). The world needs engineers. But why do engineers do what they do?
In honor of National Engineers Week, here are just a few of the reasons I wouldn’t do anything else:
1. The field is constantly changing. One of the things I love most about engineering is that unlike a lot of other jobs, it’s always changing. The rapid rate of change in nearly every industry means there’s always more to learn, and each day is all about puzzles – building and experimenting with new things, taking them apart and figuring out how they work.
2. You get to help create cutting-edge technology. An engineer’s job is all about being hands-on. I find it incredibly rewarding to see an idea take shape in the real world. In my current role as Lenovo’s CTO, I’m not tinkering in the R&D labs as much these days, but I still have a strong hand in developing the next generation technology that goes into our products. I remember one of my proudest moments in engineering; we were creating the ThinkPad X300, and at the time, we considered the product design risky because it broke new ground for many technology firsts. We worked with Intel to create a special processor chip, used new solid state drive storage and added a DVD drive half the size of anything currently in use. I’m proud of how the X300 came together, and the excellent market reception it received.
Lenovo ThinkPad X300
3. You’re part of a community of innovators. We got the idea for the ThinkPad X300 from a brainstorm between colleagues. We wanted to challenge the status quo of “thin and light” devices in the market, and after much puzzling and problem-solving, we figured out how to deliver a truly innovative and next-level product. Actually, one of my favorite things about being an engineer from Canada (where I grew up and received my engineering degree) comes with a unique story. After graduation you receive an “Iron Ring” to wear on the pinkie finger of your dominant hand. I meet people from all around the world and immediately recognize a fellow “Canadian engineer” by the ring on their finger.
My Iron Ring, awarded to Canadian engineers following graduation.
4. You’re ahead of the curve on tech trends. Part of my job now is to travel the world in search of “what’s next.” Lenovo works in so many different industries – we are the only company that offers PCs, phones, tablets, infrastructure, services – and that means I’m able to see concepts and ideas all the time and say, “hey, that would work well alongside this technology.” It’s an engineer’s dream to see innovation take shape first-hand.
Meeting LIM Chuan Poh, Chairman of A*STAR, in Singapore last year to discuss opportunities for future tech research.
5. There’s still room to be surprised. I’m constantly amazed at how often I’m surprised by another company or engineer’s thought process and designs. You get to see a lot of concepts that have amazing potential. The best part is when someone surprises you and you think, “I wouldn’t have thought of doing it that way.” There are a lot of companies in a variety of industries doing some very novel things – engineering tomorrow’s technology today, essentially. It’s an exciting time to be an engineer.
Why do you love being an engineer? Share your thoughts in the comments section below or with me on Twitter @PeterHortensius.